Never-Fail No-Roll Pie Crust

November 19, 2014 in Desserts

Pie crust – idiot proof edition.

Pie Crust

Never Fail, No Roll, Quick, Easy. The best pie crust recipe. Ever.

This is my favorite pie crust of all time – because it is completely fail proof. I have posted it before, but it is one of those recipes that you really must try to believe, and so I am posting it again. Even kids can help you with this because there is no rolling necessary. Just pat it into the pan and it turns out perfect every single time. Guaranteed.

I have hated making pies my entire life because of one thing: pie crust. Believe me, I have tried all of the “tricks” – which contradict each other, by the way- – – Keep the water ice-cold. Use boiling water. Don’t touch the crust with your hands. No, no – Use your hands to smear the butter into the flour. Whatever you do NEVER use a food processor. NO, no – Whatever you do ALWAYS use a food processor. Use vinegar. Use vodka. Use egg yolks. Use egg whites. Use only butter. Use only lard. Use only shortening. Use only oil. Use a combination. Freeze the fat. Freeze the bowl. Freeze the flour.

No matter what I tried, my crust never turned out. Until I discovered this crust recipe. 

I watched America’s Test Kitchen make a pie crust that looks and feels like play-dough and IS NOT rolled, but you just pat it into the pan. Yes, you read that right. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO ROLL OUT THIS CRUST!  This pie crust works because of the fat plus a little dairy keep the gluten from toughening the crust.

These days, if you come to my house for the holidays, you must eat a piece of pie. The crust will be perfectly soft, perfectly seasoned and flavorful. If you don’t believe me, come on over to my house. Or, try this crust recipe.

Either way, it will change your life. Or at least your pie making.

Happy Pie Day, everyone!

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Winter Grape Salad Recipe with Toasted Walnuts

November 16, 2014 in Healthy Fare, Side Dishes

 Winter Grape Salad – a blend of sweetness and crunch.

Winter Grape Salad with Toasted Walnuts and Pomegranate

Winter Grape Salad with Toasted Walnuts and Pomegranate Seeds

Thanksgiving sides are on my mind these days, and on the minds of most of American cooks preparing for the Big Kahuna meal of the year: Thanksgiving Dinner.

One of my favorite childhood food memories is the fruit salad we made every year for Thanksgiving. You know the one: fruit cocktail (with some extra pineapple tidbits thrown in, and maybe some coconut) and then that very famous whipped topping stirred in. I liked to pick through the bowl while spooning my serving to look for the maraschino cherries hiding behind the pear chunks. So, every year since my childhood (NOT saying how many that is, BTW) I put a dish at my table that has some sort of fruit in it on Thanksgiving Day.

I wanted to update this fruit salad – so I subbed a fabulous new Australian style yogurt for the whipped topping, and I must say I like this version better.  Noosa is a brand I tried in Seattle at the International Food Blogger Conference in September this year. It is an Aussie yogurt – and so delicious that I swooned. Truly, truly smooth and creamy and so flavorful. I recommend you drop whatever you’re doing and run to the nearest grocery store to buy some. I used the plain Noosa in this – for the tartness, but their other flavors would work well, too. I must try the coconut with this STAT.

The Hubs is addicted to the Strawberry Rhubarb Noosa because he grew up with a mom that made fabulous rhubarb pie. He will even clean out the garage if I promise to buy him some of this. Takes him right back to his childhood!

For crunch I added walnuts – toasted first, of course. Toasting nuts is something I learned to do from other food bloggers – and now is a routine step in all my recipes using nuts.

SO pretty for your holiday table!

(( Read to the end of this post to see what is reflected in the spoon in this photo!))

– posted by Donna

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One Pot Wonder: Skillet Roasted Chicken and Sweet Potatoes

November 14, 2014 in Dairy-Free, Entrees, Gluten Free

A simple easy weeknight meal, all in one skillet!

Skillet Roasted Chicken and Sweet Potatoes (After)

One-Pot Skillet Roasted Chicken and Sweet Potatoes (After)

We can all use more one-pot meals, and this one is a total breeze. I have loved my co-blogger’s one-pot creations (as have so many others – the Tomato Basil Pasta has been a particular smash hit), and thought I’d experiment with a simple chicken and potatoes dish, inspiration by the Can’t Cook Book, actually! Perfect for fall, minimal prep, and ready in an hour.  Read the rest of this entry →

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Sweet Potato Crust Vegetarian Quiche Cups

November 10, 2014 in Breakfast, Vegetarian Entrees

Sweet potato quiche cups

Crispy Sweet Potatoes make a fabulous crust!

Some folks might like these little quiche cups because they are grain free and gluten free. Some because they are vegetarian and make a great Meatless Monday treat. Some folks are looking for whole food recipes. As for me, I just make them becasue they’re delicious.

Thin strips of sweet potatoes make delicious, crispy crusts for these fall flavored quiche cups. You can serve them for breakfast or as a breakfast for dinner treat.

You just oil the muffin tins and place thin strips inside, patting down to form the crusts. Then, you spray the tops of the strips with oil and bake for a few minutes to give the crust a head start. Then, you’re off!

These little gems would be so pretty on a platter to feed a crowd, so if a holiday breakfast is in your future, try these flavorful and comforting mini quiches to please a crowd.

– posted by Donna

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Cinnamon Apple Cider Slush

November 6, 2014 in Dairy-Free, Desserts, Healthy Fare, Holidays

A beverage that’s both refreshing and still very much flavored by fall.

Cinnamon Apple Cider Slush

Cinnamon Apple Cider Slush

Fresh apple cider is always an autumn treat to look forward to, but I thought I’d try jazzing it up in a very simple way. This may be the perfect beverage for a Thanksgiving table – still full of classic fall flavor, but a cool, refreshing counterbalance to the hot, hearty and often rich holiday fare.

Getting to test drive a Nutri-Ninja Duo blender thanks to the team who hooked us up at IFBC this year was a total bonus. And yes, I will totally vouch for its design, ease of use and efficiency. This recipe uses 14 ice cubes, and it was rendered into delicious slush in seconds flat, thanks to the blade that spirals up the center of the pitcher.  And for extremely easy cleaning, that blade lifts right out – no having to scrape tediously around it at the bottom. But no matter what blender you have, this might be your next autumnal addiction.  Read the rest of this entry →

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Roasted Almond Butter

November 4, 2014 in Condiments

The most delicious almond butter ever is just a whirl away!

almond butter

The most delicious almond butter ever.

So, why make your own almond butter? I give you this recipe as The Answer.

I couldn’t find almond butter at the store with roasted almonds as an ingredient. So, I bought a bag of almonds and decided to do my own roasting. The recipe I found called for olive oil, but I had just a bit of coconut oil in the bottom of the jar, so I decided to use that instead. Adding a splash of vanilla was my idea because, well, why not?

This is a beautiful flavor combination, I must say. The coconut oil and vanilla add flavor and just a hint of sweetness without any sugar. So, so good. And healthy, too.

This should stay in your fridge for a few weeks, but I really can’t verify that because mine was completely gone after two days. I’m not saying that you should just sit and eat yours with a spoon, though, so yours might last longer. Just sayin.

(NOTE: The coconut oil will make the mixture very solid after it has been in the fridge, so let it sit out awhile to loosen up before spreading.)

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Butternut Squash Anna

November 2, 2014 in Side Dishes

A butternut squash version of Pommes Anna.

Butternut Squash

Simple yet elegant – A butternut squash version of the classic dish: Potatoes Anna

Pommes Anna is a classic French dish that is a classic for a reason. It is the technique that makes this dish spectacular. There are only two ingredients in the classic French potato torte – potatoes and butter (a little salt, too).

I love, love LOVE butternut squash and so I wanted to do this classic dish with butternut squash – and I am so pleased with how this turned out. I even baked it in the oven and it still turned out so pretty on a platter. Try this as a Thanksgiving side this year – and you will get oooh’s and aaah’s galore, I promise!

Since squash does not have as much starch as potatoes, I decided a little cheese and flour were needed to hold the layers together. So, I tossed some Parmesan with a bit of flour to sprinkle in between the layers. This worked perfectly – and I will be making this dish again and again this fall. The only work is in the slicing – the rest is just assembling and throwing this in the oven.

 

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Salted Caramel Fudge with Coconut Palm Sugar

October 30, 2014 in Desserts, Holidays

A decadent homemade candy for any time of year (Halloween is just the current excuse).

Salted Caramel Fudge

Salted Caramel Fudge, made with coconut palm sugar in the mix

Caramel is my kryptonite. I feel about caramel the way others describe their feelings about chocolate. I like chocolate well enough, don’t get me wrong, especially in brownie, Nutella, fudge, or chocolate chip cookie form, but I don’t love it, don’t crave it, am not overcome with a wistful thousand-year-stare at the thought of it. But caramel, oh caramel, that’s a different story. And in continuing our October family reunion anniversary theme, this particular taste appears to have been inherited from my biological dad, who wrote me in an early getting-to-know-you email, “I have a weakness for caramel.” The proverbial caramel apple didn’t fall far from that tree, did it?

Now, no one has been happier about the advent of salted caramel as a trend, and I’ll remain devoted to the form long after various food culture lists declare it Over (which may have happened already, for all I know). The best thing about salted caramel is that it tends to be offered all on its own, rather than in combination with chocolate, which, to me, completely ruins both components. Alas, many “caramel fudge” recipes I’ve encountered really mean regular chocolate fudge WITH caramel, not a fudgy version of caramel all on its pure, glorious, buttery own.

So I set about to make a caramel confection that would stand all on its own, and if I could reduce the refined sugar in the recipe a bit with the help of Wholesome Sweetener’s coconut palm sugar, all the better. (I also used their organic brown sugar and natural cane sugar.) Read the rest of this entry →

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Waffle Iron Winter Squash with Chipotle Maple Glaze

October 27, 2014 in Side Dishes

Winter squash done in a waffle iron. Yes, waffle iron!

Waffle Iron Winter Squash

Winter squash cooked with a waffle iron. Who knew?

Yes, you read that right: Acorn Squash Rings and Butternut Squash Slices cooked with a waffle iron.

When the weather gets cooler and your grill is covered for the winter, you can still get that “grilled” flavor – with a waffle iron. Last summer I saw things you can cook on a waffle iron by Buzzfeed – and they were mostly things cooked with batter, but I wanted to try some veggies. I tried a bunch of things and these squash rings were my favorite.

BONUS: This is a perfect side dish for Thanksgiving because it doesn’t use up your oven space!

This squash is cooked with the waffle iron in just about 5 minutes – with the perfect flavor and texture. And then I brushed them while still hot with a Maple Chipotle Glaze. The idea for the maple glaze came from Pantry Queen Lydia at Perfect Pantry.  ( I used 2 tablespoons maple syrup, 1 teaspoon chipotle pepper, minced, and a dash of salt. You just brush on the glaze as soon as these rings come out of the waffle iron. I sprinkled on a little chile powder as well.

This is not only easy and flavorful – this recipe is downright FUN. I promise you will be standing anxiously waiting, waiting, waiting to open up your waffle iron to see what magic has happened!

You will need to makes the slices fit your waffle iron – both in diameter and in thickness. Then, cook them checking frequently to see if they are tender.

You can even let little ones help with tossing the squash into the waffle iron – and then just wait to see their faces when you lift up the top of the waffle iron! Their eyes will grow big when they see the steam come out and the squash covered with checker board squares.

Happy Fall, Y’all!

waffle iron squash rings

The most fun you have ever had with your waffle iron. Guaranteed.

– posted by Donna

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Raspberry Lemon Cheesecakes: An Homage to a Blue Ribbon Original

October 23, 2014 in Dairy-Free, Desserts, Vegan Recipes

Raw Raspberry Lemon Cheesecakes, and a moment of gratitude for the cheesecake recipe that started it all for Donna and Anne.

Raspberry Lemon Cheesecake

Raspberry Lemon Cheesecakes: vegan, raw and no refined sugar either.

The first page in my battered and spattered recipe binder is a printout of an email sent to me fifteen years ago, kept safe from the ravages of my cooking habits by a plastic sleeve.

“Hey, we wouldn’t be a family unless we exchanged recipes now and then, would we? So, here’s the cheesecake recipe I was telling you about. It’s pretty good, and I have the ribbon to prove it (somewhere in my attic, okay, trust me!). I have changed the recipe a lot over the years to improve it, and so I feel justified in giving it my name!”

The days are long, the years are short, as the parenting saying goes. It’s hard to believe that it’s been fifteen years since Donna and I first reunited, but the calendars don’t lie – it was in October of 1999 that I was lucky enough to have a reunion that many adopted children only daydream about. After months of anticipatory email, we met face to face in the San Diego airport, only two years before routinely meeting people at the gate would become a thing of the past. My stomach felt positively carbonated as she emerged from the runway. I watched her looking around for just a moment, searching, and then our eyes met and the moment truly arrived. The mother and child reunion really was only a motion away.

Since that first whirlwind San Diego weekend, we have had one adventure after another, slowly integrating each other into our lives, getting to know each other through out Hotmail accounts, introducing one another to our friends and families, traveling together, sharing holidays, and yes, cooking and eating and cooking some more, making up for at least a little of our lost time. Discovering that we had this passion in common was a revelation; in fact, we inspired each other to delve more deeply into culinary creativity than we ever had individually.  Our collaborations eventually moved on to cookbooks, CIA Boot Camp, and finally this very blog – yet I still look forward to the visits where we whip up a feast for our loved ones, just for the sheer joy of it.

When I made that emailed Blue Ribbon Cheesecake for the first time, I felt as though I was tapping into a tangible part of my own ancestral history, but even beyond that, it was like being able to have a hazy glimpse into an alternate universe where my mom (not my birthmom, but simply my mom) taught me to make it herself, in our kitchen, me licking the beaters, all the clichés that go with halcyon kitchen memories. What would that have been like? But despite occasionally wondering about that universe, I’m deeply grateful to have what we have now.

In honor of the recipe that started it all, I made a “daughter” version of her “mother” recipe, using raw ingredients to make an adaptation that lines up with the way I eat most of the time now, having undergone some valuable dietary changes over the last decade. I already love experimenting with raw/vegan/paleo desserts, but if you’ve never given them a shot, they’re well worth it and, as you can see, really quite simple.

Happy Reunion Anniversary to my first mom. May we spend many, MANY more hours in the kitchen together!

Love and eternal gratitude,

Anne

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